A lighthearted recap of some of our oldest tales.

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ANCIENT EGYPT

TALES OF GODS AND PHARAOHS

For her latest cartoon foray into ancient cultures, Williams concocts a brisk dash through Egyptian myth and history.

Drawing figures in traditional Egyptian style but with a more natural range of expressions and gestures, she constructs flat-planed scenes that range from small sequential strips to full-page images and even larger ones on double gatefolds. Her nine episodes begin with a creation myth, end with Cleopatra’s death and in between introduce a select set of major gods and Pharaohs. Large and small, each picture is decked with strings of hieroglyphic-like signs for atmosphere as well as side comments in dialogue balloons to go with the short, legible captions. Though she freely mixes legend and fact without distinguishing one from the other in the main going, a smaller strip running below provides a cat’s-eye view of the subject. The patterns of Egyptian daily life (“Cats are Egypt’s greatest wonder, followed by the river Nile”), how mummies were made (“Yes, we do cats, too!”), early technological advances and general cultural values receive tongue-in-cheek glosses. The colorful, briefly told stories provide nothing like a systematic overview but are easily enjoyed for themselves, and they may well leave young readers with a hankering to find out more about Isis and Horus, Zoser, Hatshepsut, Tutankhamen and the rest.

A lighthearted recap of some of our oldest tales. (map) (Picture book/folklore. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5308-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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A crisp historical vignette.

BEN'S REVOLUTION

BENJAMIN RUSSELL AND THE BATTLE OF BUNKER HILL

A boy experiences the Boston Tea Party, the response to the Intolerable Acts, and the battle at Breed’s Hill in Charlestown.

Philbrick has taken his Bunker Hill (2013), pulled from its 400 pages the pivotal moments, added a 12-year-old white boy—Benjamin Russell—as the pivot, and crafted a tale of what might have happened to him during those days of unrest in Boston from 1773 to 1775 (Russell was a real person). Philbrick explains, in plainspoken but gradually accelerating language, the tea tax, the Boston Tea Party, the Intolerable Acts, and the quartering of troops in Boston as well as the institution of a military government. Into this ferment, he introduces Benjamin Russell, where he went to school, his part-time apprenticeship at Isaiah Thomas’ newspaper, sledding down Beacon Hill, and the British officer who cleaned the cinders from the snow so the boys could sled farther and farther. It is these humanizing touches that make war its own intolerable act. Readers see Benjamin, courtesy of Minor’s misty gouache-and-watercolor tableaux, as he becomes stranded outside Boston Neck and becomes a clerk for the patriots. Significant characters are introduced, as is the geography of pre-landfilled Boston, to gain a good sense of why certain actions took place where they did. The final encounter at Breed’s Hill demonstrates how a battle can be won by retreating.

A crisp historical vignette. (maps, author’s note, illustrator’s note) (Historical fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: May 23, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-16674-7

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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Fold down the drawbridge and step through. Mind the mucky patches.

LIFT, LOOK, AND LEARN CASTLE

UNCOVER THE SECRETS OF A MEDIEVAL FORTRESS

Flurries of small-to-tiny flaps give good cause to linger at each stop on this buttery-to-battlements castle tour.

It’s not all typical 13th-century feasting and fighting on display either, as opening teasers warn of 16 anachronistic items (among them a pair of boxer shorts), a lost treasure and a spy—or maybe ghost—to spot along the way. Castle de Chevalier comes equipped with a lord and lady, mail-clad men at arms and servants of diverse sorts. There’s also a well-stocked torture chamber/dungeon and, as revealed in cutaway views and beneath the diminutive die-cut flaps, thriving populations of bats, rats and spiders…not to mention the occasional detached head. The visit ends with a tournament, where tents, spectators and jousting knights can be viewed in situ or rearranged to suit with separate punch-out versions. Except for an arrant disconnect on the chapel spread, Pipe’s flippant commentary supplies tolerable if rudimentary bits of plot and explication. Though not so maniacally awash in microbusiness as the illustrations in Stephen Biesty’s Cross-Sections: Castle (written by Richard Platt, 1994), Taylord’s bustling cartoon scenes may well require a magnifying glass to make out all the detail. The same applies to the cutaways and Victorian-era rooms in the simultaneously published Lift, Look, and Learn Doll’s House.

Fold down the drawbridge and step through. Mind the mucky patches. (Informational novelty. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-78312-081-9

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Carlton

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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